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Cancer Supportive Care and Other Services at SingHealth

1. Palliative Care

Palliative care is care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families who are facing life-limiting illnesses, e.g. advanced cancers or end-stage chronic illnesses. It includes the treatment of pain and other symptoms, and addressing (where possible) the psychological, social, financial and spiritual concerns of patients and families. Treatment options are also explored, so that patients can come to decisions that are in line with their own philosophy and outlook on life.

Palliative care is delivered through a multidisciplinary team approach involving the participation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers/counsellors. The palliative care team works closely with the primary physicians, family members and other palliative care services to help patients achieve their goals of care. This may sometimes involve advice on discharge planning.

Quality of life is deeply personal to each person. Palliative care endeavours to help each patient achieve the best quality of life that is possible in his or her remaining time.

2. Dietetics and Nutritional Support

Eating well is one way to fi ght cancer. Although there is no single food that can cure or prevent cancer, eating the right kinds of food before, during and after treatment can help a patient feel better and stay stronger. A healthy diet can also help keep up strength, fi ght off infection, prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm. Dietitians from the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition of each hospital will be able to give specifi c advice to suit each patient’s needs. You can request for a referral to a Dietitian from the doctor, should you require one.

3. Psycho Social Services

The Department of Psychosocial Oncology attend to patients and their families who have difficulties coping with their social, psychological and care problems arising from ill health and traumatic injuries. The types of problems seen by our Medical Social Workers are grouped into the following categories:

Psychological

  • Family/couple/marital relationships
  • Emotional/behavioural difficulties
  • Anxiety over illness/treatment
  • Loss/grief and bereavement issues

Rehabilitation and Care of Patients

  • Discharge and continuing care of patients
  • Homecare
  • Special education/training/ rehabilitation
  • Work adjustments

Financial Assistance

  • Assistance with payment of hospital treatment charges
  • Subsidised treatment scheme assessment
  • Short-term financial support to patients
  • Assistance with purchases of equipment such as prosthesis/ appliances and treatment aids

4. Support Groups

You do not need to be a patient of a particular hospital or institution to join any of these support groups.

When first diagnosed with cancer, most patients would experience fear, anger, anguish and helplessness. But it is important for them to realise that they are not alone. Cancer support groups play a vital role in helping people cope with cancer and they work alongside conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Support groups help individuals have a sense of control and personal responsibility in their and their family’s lives. This will allow each patient to focus positively on his daily treatment and care, and ultimately enhance his quality of life.

SingHealth’s hospitals and national centres conduct cancer support groups’ activities throughout the year. Most of these support groups are facilitated and run by volunteers who are cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.

National Cancer Centre Singapore Support Programmes
National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) offers a comprehensive range of Patient Education and Support Programmes. These programmes provide support at diff erent phases of patients’ journey with cancer – particularly during the ‘Treatment Phase’ and ‘Post-Treatment Phase’.

Treatment Phase

  • Support Group Programme
    Developmental and therapeutic groupwork programmes are designed to:
    • build awareness of significant events and their impact on coping
    • create awareness and recognition of one’s choices in coping
    • build internal resources in coping
    • promote congruency within oneself 

  • EnReach Retreat
    EnReach, a 3-day residential programme, aims to help patients and their caregivers cope with the diff erent aspects of cancer by increasing their knowledge, positive attitudes and skills. The retreat, conducted in both English and Mandarin, is usually held twice a year in March and September during the school holidays.

Post-Treatment Phase

  • STEER Programme
    (Support Through Empowerment, Enrichment and Resourcefulness) The STEER Programme is a community-based psychosocialeducation programme. It also serves as the extension of the EnReach Retreat where former participants from the retreats could continue to meet up for continuing knowledge and life skills acquisition, and for emotional and social support through organised activities.

  • Self-Help Groups
    These are social groups usually facilitated and run by cancer survivors themselves. Groups focus mainly on bonding amongst cancer survivors. Each group meets once a month. The Self-Help Groups include:
    • Gynae-Oncology Self-Help Group
    • Breast Cancer Self-Help Group
    • Nasopharyngeal Cancer Self-Help Group
    • The Revival Connection (for patients with cancer recurrence)
    • The Mandarin Support Group
    • Malay Support Group

Family Support Programmes

  • Caregivers’ Support Programme
    Nearly all our support programmes are enriched with many opportunities in which caregivers can share, learn and provide mutual support for one another.

  • Children’s Therapies Programme
    We have young parents amongst our cancer patients. These families may have young children who are mystifi ed by the patient’s medical condition. They might have fear, uneasy feelings and inner sadness, which they may find hard to verbalise. These children would need psychological help to express their feelings and develop appropriate coping skills. The Children’s Therapies Programme, such as ‘Art Therapy’, helps children express themselves when facing a family trauma.

  • Grief in Recovery Support Group
    This programme targets people grieving the loss of someone close through cancer. It seeks to off er comfort and encouragement during this diffi cult time, as well as provide therapies for individuals going through complicated grief reactions.

    For more information on NCCS’s Patient Education and Support Programmes, please contact Programme Executive at:

    Tel: 6436 8117 Fax: 6227 2534
    Email: nssghh@nccs.com.sg

  • KK Women’s Cancer Support Group
    The support group was started in 1991 by nurses and allied health professionals for KKH gynaecological cancer patients. The support group provides emotional and psychological support to gynaecological cancer patients and their families through counselling and befriending services. The nurses and allied health professionals empower members of the support group by increasing their awareness about basic disease and symptom management. For example, management of lymphaedema and nutrition during cancer treatment.

    Social activities are also organised to create a platform for patients and their families to interact among each other to enhance their coping skills.

  • KK Alpine Blossoms Breast Cancer Support Group
    The support group was launched in October 2008 as a breast cancer support group that is led by healthcare professionals and has a structured programme to take patients through all phases of the journey from diagnosis to treatment, remission and recovery from breast cancer.

    In its fifth year now, the group is driven by its mission to:

    • Be exemplary in the support of women with breast cancer in terms of their individual physical, psychological, social and informational needs throughout their rehabilitation;

    • Play a key role in raising public awareness about breast diseases and breast cancer in particular;

    • Build Alpine Blossoms as a platform for healthcare professionals to learn from breast cancer survivors themselves, their concerns and needs.

    Currently the support group is about 180-member strong, of which approximately 10 per cent are from various other hospitals. The support group is open to breast cancer patients from any hospital to assist them in their journey to recovery. Family members and friends are also encouraged to join the support group activities.

    KK Alpine Blossoms Breast Cancer Support Group has a regular calendar of therapeutic activities, meetings and discussions to empower patients to cope with the challenges of their journey and emerge triumphant survivors. Support Group Meetings are held once every two months.

    In addition members participate in various activities:

    – Look Good… Feel Better Workshops
    – The Alpine Blossoms Line Dance
    – The Alpine Blossoms Choir
    – The Art Therapy
    – The Art & Craft Sessions
    – The Mind-Body Programme
    – Healthy Cooking Workshop
    – Support Group Retreat

    The group introduced the ‘Blossom Buddies’ programme, under which trained volunteers will reach out and share their experiences with newly diagnosed patients. The personal experiences of each woman can serve as a powerful source of inspiration and strength for peer group edification. It will also help to raise awareness about breast cancer and the need for early detection among the public, with the ultimate aim of reducing fear of the life-threatening proportions of this disease, and improving survival rates.

    Blossom buddies are not randomly assigned but are carefully matched such that their background profi les are similar in order to render each other one-to-one support. The fi rst batch of Buddies completed their programme on 17 December 2010 and a follow-up session in July 2011. The support group has also launched a quarterly newsletter since July 2011.

    For enquiries on membership, please call: Doris @ 6394 5816 or Breast Care Nurse @ 8121 7943.

  • heART
    heART is an art making support group open to all cancer patients seen at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. It was started in October 2009, facilitated by a psychiatrist with a passion for arts. It was set up as a support service, under the Department of Psychological Medicine.

    The art sessions are held twice a month in the hospital. All the art materials are provided at no cost to the patients. Patients do not need to have any arts background to join the group and the sessions give patients an opportunity to seek mutual support and allow them to destress. Many participants have discovered their hidden talents and passion for arts after they joined the group.

    Besides the art sessions, heART holds regular exhibitions to showcase the members’ creations. Some of the works have been printed as calendars.

    Visit the website at www.kkh.com.sg/heART to view some of the art works and some of the past activities. Tel: 6394 2205

  • Cancer Helpline : A confidential service manned by cancer-trained nurse counsellors.
    Cancer Helpline is an anonymous and confi dential service that provides credible, up-to-date information and emotional and psychological support through telephone, email or face-to-face counselling. This service is provided free nationwide and is manned by cancer-trained nurse counsellors who are able to speak with callers in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

    Tel: 6225 5655
    Email: cancerhelpline@nccs.com.sg